I am signed up for Aware and Prepare alerts. However, a better and immediate alert is available via Pulse Point. This is a free app available for iPhones and Android devices. It provides real-time emergency dispatch information for EMS and fire calls. It can be programmed to sound alerts for selected types of calls like vegetation fires.
I received an alert for the initial and second alarms for the Holiday Fire. I turned on my fire receiver and heard the first unit’s report that it was a working fire. Next the battalion chief responding called for a second alarm — mutual aid strike teams and evacuations. This was all within minutes of the 8:39 p.m. call out.
I called friends in the vicinity to make sure they were aware of the fire. Yet, one of my friends did not receive a reverse 9-1-1 call until 1 a.m.! Fortunately, she was well aware of the situation.
The Pulse Point app was originally intended to alert people trained in CPR to cardiac emergencies in their vicinity. However, as implemented by the Santa Barbara County Fire Department, it alerts on all types of calls. It is invaluable in situations like the Holiday Fire where other alerting methods lag or fail completely. Clearly, in spite being ordered in the first few minutes of the fire, evacuation alerts were issued too late. This is not to say that fire and law enforcement people on the ground did not do their jobs very well, but they can’t contact everybody, and the warning systems need to work better. You should be aware of the need to evacuate before someone knocks on your door.
It is easy to understand the high volume of calls at the dispatch center. Nevertheless, the initiation of a reverse 9-1-1 call should be a very quick and automated procedure that should take a few minutes at most. Someone should be specifically assigned this function and not hindered by lack of access codes and the like. Then importance of alerting hundreds or thousands of people should be a priority that takes precedence over everything else. Clearly our public officials have failed in this function before, and their explanations are really obfuscations.
Please keep following up on this important story.
Editor’s Note: Pulse Point alerts for cardiac arrest and can be programmed to alert for fire, but it does not send updated information beyond the initial alert.